363. Robert Southey to John May, [28 December 1798]

363. Robert Southey to John May, [28 December 1798] ⁠* 

My dear friend

I have this instant received a letter from Charles Lamb. after mentioning your friendly offer to Lloyd of serving him in the India house [1]  he proceeds thus. “It is not likely that I shall ever put his goodness to the test on my own account, for my prospects are very comfortable. But I know a man, a young man [2]  whom he could serve thro the same channel, & I think would be disposed to serve, were he acquainted with his case. This poor fellow (whom I know just enough of to vouch for his strict integrity & worth) has lost two or three employments from illness which he cannot regain: he was once insane, & from the distressful uncertainty of his livelihood, has reason to apprehend a return of that malady. he has been for some time dependant on a woman, whose lodger he formerly was, but who can ill afford to maintain him, & I know that on Xmas night last he actually walked about the streets all night rather than accept of her bed which she offered him, & offerd herself to sleep in the kitchen; & that in consequence of that severe cold he is labouring under a bilious disorder, besides a depression of spirits which incapacitates him from exertion when he most needs it. For Gods sake Southey if it does not go against you to ask favours, do it now, ask it as for me – but do not do a violence to your feelings, because he does not know of this application, & will suffer no disappointment.

What I meant to say was this – there are in the India house what are called Extra Clerks, not on the establishment like me, but employed in Extra-businesses, by-jobs. these get about £50 a year or rather more but never rise. a Director can put in at any time a young man in this office, & it is by no means considered so great a favour as making as establishd Clerk. he would think himself as rich as an Emperor, if he could get such a certain situation, & be relieved from those disquietudes which I do fear may one day bring back his distemper.

You know xx Mr May better than I do, but I know enough to believe that he is a good man. he did make me that offer I have mentioned, but you will perceive that such an offer cannot authorize me in applying for another person. But I cannot help writing to you on the subject, for the young man is perpetually before my eyes, & I should feel it a crime not to strain all my petty interest to do him service.”


I have just time my dear friend to copy this for to days post. these miserable tales makes one sick when without the power of doing good. I should add if you wish to communicate immediately with Lamb upon the subject a letter to the India house will find him.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey



* Address: To/ John May Esqr / 4 Bedford Square/ London
Postmark: DE/ 29/ 98
Watermark: LVG
Endorsement: 1798 No. 29/ Robert Southey/ No date/ recd: 31 December/ ansd: 5 Jany 1799
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, p. 178 [in part; copy of Lamb’s letter not reproduced]. BACK

[1] Charles Lamb was a clerk at the British East India Company’s headquarters, East India House, in Leadenhall Street. John May had offered to help Charles Lloyd gain a similar post, as he was acquainted with Sir Francis Baring (1740–1810; DNB), a leading Director of the Company, 1779–1810. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

People mentioned

Lamb, Charles (1775–1834) (mentioned 2 times)
Lloyd, Charles (1775–1839) (mentioned 2 times)